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Wine drinkers guide to rosé

An official guide to rosé to help you learn all about the different types of this pink wine and how it's made.

An official guide to rosé to help you learn all about the different types of this pink wine and how it's made.

Rosé is a wildly popular and nuanced wine that is perfect for a summer’s day. In this rosé guide, we’ll briefly explain how this pink wine is made and what your different choices are when you make your selection on Drizly.

The production process

Despite rosé’s color suggesting a blend of red and white wine, the only true red/white mixture you’ll find is rosé Champagne. In reality, the light color of rosé wine comes from the harvesting process and grape selection.

To intentionally make rosé, winemakers harvest early — meaning there is more acidity in the grape and punchier fruit flavors. The grapes are then crushed and given time with the skins time to make their mark on the flavor. This period lasts only from several hours to several days. The time a wine spends with its skins is called maceration.

This is a relatively short time for the skins to be in contact with the wine; by contrast, red wine like pinot noir or merlot might see several weeks of fermentation on red grape skins. It is this shorter maceration period that results in a lighter color. The winemaker exercises complete control over the color of the wine during this period, removing the skins of the red grapes once the perfect hue is reached. When making red wine, the wine stays with its skins for much longer.

After soaking, winemakers will strain the wine and begin fermentation to create a dry, light wine. Common types of red wine grapes used to make rosé include grenache, pinot noir, syrah, mourvèdre, carignan, pinot noir, and sangiovese.

Both still and sparkling varieties are possible, with sparkling rosé wine coming from powerhouse winemakers the world over. Sparkling rosé is lovely on its own and for cocktails — a light mixed drink with strawberry, cherry, citrus, raspberry and other ingredients can please any palate.

What does rosé taste like?

You'll get more or less of these flavors depending on which rosé you're sipping. Rosé wine characteristically has a flavor profile of strawberry, honeydew melon, citrus and rhubarb. You'll find sweet to dry rosés, though this wine mostly leans dry.

Rosé pairs with a large diversity of foods. It's key to note what grape varieties your rosé is made from when making the best pairing decision. So, for example, if you're drinking a rosé made with the pinot noir grape - your best option for food pairings will be things like feta, tomatoes, mint and spinach. Overall, very summery foods. Generally, rosés pair well with seafood like salmon, meats like chicken, duck and lamb, charcuterie and soft cheeses. 

The history of rosé

Rosé appears to date back nearly as far as the wine itself. Many of the techniques leading to the wines we enjoy today, including the hard pressing and extended maceration that lead to darker wines, were not used back in the day.

Red and white wine grapes usually received pressing just after being harvested and faced very little maceration time. After being pressed by hand/foot/cloth, the grapes would be removed to produce a lightly pigmented wine.

Here are the main origins of fine rosés you’ll find on our virtual shelves:

France

Hailing from the vineyards of idyllic Provence, French rosé wine has a uniquely crisp and enlivening flavor. French rosé has achieved a level of mythology that other wines can only aspire to. Each year, rosés from Provence consistently take home prizes for the loveliest flavors and colors. In producing French rosé wine, the grape’s skin contact is typically shortened to several hours to create a delicate, light color with sharp fruit flavors.

In the US, you’re most likely to find Provence rosés grown in the Bandol region. These rosés are perfectly capable of aging and hold a savory-edged flavor, with rich complexity and freshness combined with fine structure. Expect an intense depth of flavors, no tannins and a strong typicity. 

French rosés may also stem from the syrah grape, a grape known for its bold, full-bodied flavor that carries smokey, fruity notes with a dash of peppery spice.

Examples include dry rosés like Tavel, which have greater red fruit flavor depth and structure, as well as delicate cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon bottles.
  • Spain

    The Spanish rosé, known as rosado, has recently grown in popularity in the US. Though rosado is traditionally quite simple and easy to drink, its quality has increased dramatically in recent years.

    A famous Spanish rosé is Navarra, which brought fame to its region due to its beloved versatility. You’ll find laid-back bottles of lawn-party rosé right next to fine-dining wine. If you’re looking for a top-notch rosé from Navarra, look no further than wine from old-vine Grenache.

    The Rioja region is famous for aging its rosado in oak barrels. This aging results in several classes of rosé, including Joven, which has no aging, and Crianza, which is aged for 6 months in an oak barrel and 12 months in total. Finally, Reserva is aged a full two years.

    To finish, sip on a Basque country rosé to complete your tour of Spain. This pale pink wine is tart and mineral-heavy.
  • Shop Spanish rosé

  • Italy

    Finally, we arrive in Italy, where rosé is referred to as rosato. There are plenty of different climates and growing cultures in Italy, thus plenty of different rosés. The northeast is famous for delicate, pale rosés, while the center of the country makes the famous Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo that takes a light shade of pink.

    More robust flavors are to be found in the south of Italy. Perhaps it’s the strong sunshine in Sicily, Puglia, and other southern regions that gives their rosati such intense flavors.
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  • Find the perfect rosé on Drizly

    Whatever you’re in the mood for — whether it’s a French, Spanish, Italian, or even watermelon — Drizly has you covered. Browse our virtual shelves to find any type of beer, red wine, or liquor you’re curious about, and we’ll have it to you in an hour or less. A taste tour d’Europe is always welcome.